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Wanted: help with a Model '73 in .22 calibre
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January 26, 2023 - 1:32 am
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I am looking for help from any of my fellow members who know the Model ’73 in .22 calibre.  

I own the rifle that was featured in the Winter 2021 issue of Winchester Collector.  This rifle has been completely overhauled by some very competent gunsmiths.  The barrel has been re-lined, the carrier block has been shimmed to fit its raceway, and the bolt and ejector have been replaced.  It turned this rifle into a real tack driver.  If you click on the magazine link and scroll down to page 46 of the Winter 2021 issue, you can see the rifle and get the complete story.

Since those words were written, my Model ’73 has experienced two feeding issues.  This is where I’m looking for your help.  

The first issue is with the cartridge stop, which allows the next cartridge to enter the carrier block just enough to keep it from rising.  The second issue occurs when the cartridge has been raised to the upper level and is ready to enter the chamber.  If the muzzle is pointed downward, there is no problem: the cartridge just slides straight into the chamber.  If the muzzle is pointed up and the bolt is used to push the cartridge forward, it is the extractor tip that makes contact with the upper rim of the cartridge.  This causes the bullet nose to tip down and hang up on the lower entrance of the chamber.  When this happens, the rifle goes into total lock-up.  A Model ’73/.22 calibre bolt cannot back up until the carrier block drops back to the lower level.

Perhaps a replacement cartridge stop from Winchester Bob will solve the first issue.  As for the second issue, I’m at a total loss.

My two gunsmiths have retired and it’s hard to find someone whom you can trust your guns with.  I tried Turnbull Restorations and they declined the job.  As Sara Turnbull rightly said, the .22 calibre 1873 is notorious for mechanical issues.  Repairs can run into the thousands of dollars and still not be reliable.

Somewhere in Winchester Collector it says that no one knows old Winchesters like our own members.  Have any of you experienced these problems?  Does anyone have a solution?

Many thanks, Pete Hynard

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January 26, 2023 - 1:50 am
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Pete,

Did the gun feed correctly after it was restored? What 22 is the gun setup for?

Bob

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January 26, 2023 - 3:47 am
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I have a M1873 in 22 short that I bought from Turnbull. It had feeding issues as well, but he paid the postage for returning the rifle, and fixed it, and sent it back on his dime. Now that’s customer service. They are really a fun gun to shoot.  Big Larry

 

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January 26, 2023 - 12:56 pm
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Yes, it fed perfectly after the restoration work.  The rifle is a .22 short and the cartridge stop is set in the .22 short position.  I removed the stop for a look and it looks fine.  Nice sharp edges.  No sign of wear.

The soft brass on ’73 carrier blocks are notorious for wear but this one has been shimmed and hand-fitted into the receiver raceway.  It doesn’t rock at all.  In the lower position, the block sits flush and level with the receiver bottom, as it should.  Cartridges move from the magazine into the carrier just fine.  In the upper position, the block sits in proper alignment with the bolt.  When the action is closed, the bolt moves into the block and through it just fine.  It makes contact with the cartridge stop on the way forward, pushes it aside as it should and closes on a chambered cartridge.  If the rifle is empty, the action racks perfectly.  If a cartridge has been chambered, the rifle fires, extracts and ejects perfectly.  

I’ve studied this over and over.  The issue of the cartridge hanging up when it moves forward to enter the chamber only occurs when it’s pushed forward by the bolt.  If the gun is pointed downward when the action is racked, the cartridge falls forward under gravity and enters the chamber on its own.  No problem.  Alignment is perfect.  If you hold the rifle level and push the cartridge forward with a match stick, that works too.  

The problem occurs when it is the bolt that pushes the cartridge forward, which is what happens when you hold the rifle and rack the action normally.  The extractor is the forward-most part of the bolt and it is the extractor that does the pushing.  The extractor pushes on the upper rim of the cartridge base, which is where it makes contact.  This causes the nose of the bullet to tip downward ever so slightly and hang up on the lower lip of the chamber.  When this happens the gun goes into total lock-up.  It is very difficult to free things up as the bolt cannot back up until the carrier drops down to its lower level.  

I’ve removed the carrier block and watched the cartridge move forward as if it were about to enter the chamber.  If it is pointed downward, it slides forward nicely on its own.  If it is held level and pushed forward with a match stick, it moves forward correctly too.  If the match stick is used to push on the upper part of the cartridge base (which is what the extractor does) the nose tips downward.  This is what causes the hang-up.

The bullet nose is allowed to tip downward because it travels through an open-bottomed channel in the carrier.  The opening is there to allow passage of the bolt.  There are no shiny wear marks along the channel to suggest that wear is taking place and the channel is enlarging with use.

I wish I could take a photo to show you all this.  The .22 short is such a tiny cartridge it’s hard enough just to see what’s going on in there.

But here’s a photo of a typical 25-yard, five-shot group.  You can see why I want to get this gun working again.

Pete

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January 26, 2023 - 2:20 pm
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Pete,

The bullet ride in the carrier on the top of the channel but because the rim is larger in diameter the bullet will always have a nose down attitude. So what I think you have going on is the channel is worn too wide or the ammo your using is undersized allowing the bullet to go into the channel. Tonight I will look at one of mine to get a better idea of where the bullet hits on the bolt but going from memory it ride on the bottom of the bolt.

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January 27, 2023 - 1:28 am
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Pete,

Diagnosing feed issues is hard if you don’t have the gun in hand. Mine the shell sits nose low and the best i can see is pushed by the lip at the bottom of the bolt face and the bottom tip of the extractor at the same time. The round nose of the bullet ramps the shell up as it enters the chamber.

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January 27, 2023 - 4:43 pm
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Bob, thank you so much for your help. 

First, the good news.  I think I have the first issue solved (the cartridge stop issue). 

It turns out the cartridge stop wasn’t the problem at all, it was overall cartridge length.  I measured the overall length of five different makes and types of .22 Short ammo.  They ranged from 0.664” OAL to 0.689”.  All of them fed into the carrier block and allowed the block to rise just fine.  No problem.

The problem occurred with my CCI/HP hunting ammo, which was being fed into the magazine repeatedly without being fired.  When hunting I don’t load the magazine fully, so the magazine spring gave these cartridges quite a thump each time the tube was inserted.   Doing this repeatedly blunted the nose and shortened the overall length.  I didn’t realize what was happening and I used these same cartridges to do my feed testing.  It only made things worse.  Some of these cartridges where down to 0.631”, which is too short to keep the next cartridge from protruding into the carrier and blocking its rise.

The lesson is to use fresh ammo when hunting and use up any damaged shells at the range, one at a time.

Thanks again, Bob.  I’m still working on the second issue.   Stay tuned.

Pete

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January 29, 2023 - 8:25 pm
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Pete Hynard said
Yes, it fed perfectly after the restoration work.  The rifle is a .22 short and the cartridge stop is set in the .22 short position.  I removed the stop for a look and it looks fine.  Nice sharp edges.  No sign of wear.

The soft brass on ’73 carrier blocks are notorious for wear but this one has been shimmed and hand-fitted into the receiver raceway.  It doesn’t rock at all.  In the lower position, the block sits flush and level with the receiver bottom, as it should.  Cartridges move from the magazine into the carrier just fine.  In the upper position, the block sits in proper alignment with the bolt.  When the action is closed, the bolt moves into the block and through it just fine.  It makes contact with the cartridge stop on the way forward, pushes it aside as it should and closes on a chambered cartridge.  If the rifle is empty, the action racks perfectly.  If a cartridge has been chambered, the rifle fires, extracts and ejects perfectly.  

I’ve studied this over and over.  The issue of the cartridge hanging up when it moves forward to enter the chamber only occurs when it’s pushed forward by the bolt.  If the gun is pointed downward when the action is racked, the cartridge falls forward under gravity and enters the chamber on its own.  No problem.  Alignment is perfect.  If you hold the rifle level and push the cartridge forward with a match stick, that works too.  

The problem occurs when it is the bolt that pushes the cartridge forward, which is what happens when you hold the rifle and rack the action normally.  The extractor is the forward-most part of the bolt and it is the extractor that does the pushing.  The extractor pushes on the upper rim of the cartridge base, which is where it makes contact.  This causes the nose of the bullet to tip downward ever so slightly and hang up on the lower lip of the chamber.  When this happens the gun goes into total lock-up.  It is very difficult to free things up as the bolt cannot back up until the carrier drops down to its lower level.  

I’ve removed the carrier block and watched the cartridge move forward as if it were about to enter the chamber.  If it is pointed downward, it slides forward nicely on its own.  If it is held level and pushed forward with a match stick, it moves forward correctly too.  If the match stick is used to push on the upper part of the cartridge base (which is what the extractor does) the nose tips downward.  This is what causes the hang-up.

The bullet nose is allowed to tip downward because it travels through an open-bottomed channel in the carrier.  The opening is there to allow passage of the bolt.  There are no shiny wear marks along the channel to suggest that wear is taking place and the channel is enlarging with use.

I wish I could take a photo to show you all this.  The .22 short is such a tiny cartridge it’s hard enough just to see what’s going on in there.

But here’s a photo of a typical 25-yard, five-shot group.  You can see why I want to get this gun working again.

Pete

  

hi Pete, I have two 1873 one fires in 22 short. One is a takedown model. They both have the feeding issues you have discussed here and I really appreciate your input and expertise with these rifles. Information is really hard to get as you know. I don’t suppose you would have any specific measurements for the specific parts of this rifle? For instance on the carriers and bolts?  again thanks!

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January 31, 2023 - 7:14 pm
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Hello, Ed.  Sorry for the long reply.  You may have to read this twice.

Yes, I can take measurements for you.   I’m going to be pulling my rifle apart again in the next few days.  Just tell me what you need to know.  I’ll hold off ’til I hear from you.

The usual problem with these old ’73s is carrier wear.  The brass carrier rides up and down in a steel raceway, which eventually causes wear on the softer brass.  When this happens, the carrier may not align properly with the magazine tube in the lower position or with the chamber in the upper position.  This usually isn’t a problem with the larger calibres but it is with the tiny .22 Short.  Things have to be just right for the .22 to feed and chamber properly.

The way to test for carrier wear is to open the action and push back and forth on the raised carrier.  If this causes it to rock, you have some degree of wear.  The cure is to silver solder a shim onto the front of the carrier and mill it down for a nice, tight fit.  You need a competent gunsmith to do this.  Silver soldering brass is a delicate operation as the melting temperature of brass isn’t much higher than silver solder.  It’s sort of like welding aluminum that way.

The next test is to follow a cartridge through the feeding cycle and watch it closely.  If it were a centrefire, you could make up a dummy round to do this test but you’ll be using live ammo.  Do this carefully and keep your rifle pointed in a safe direction.

A word of caution is in order.  A .22 calibre ’73 that has had its headspace altered can be very dangerous.  The .22 model does not have a retractable firing pin like the other ’73s.  Rather, the “pin” is a fixed protrusion on the bolt face.  When the hammer drops, the blow causes the bolt to be thrust forward and strike the cartridge rim.  Too much headspace will cause the gun to misfire.  Not enough headspace will cause an unexpected slam fire when the bolt closes on the chambered round.

OK, back to the test.  Start with a single round in the magazine and rack the action.  If the carrier block won’t rise, it means the nose of the bullet is hanging up on the receiver opening and a sloppy, misaligned carrier is the probable cause.  With the action closed, the bottom of the brass carrier, should be level with the bottom of the receiver and even with it.  If the front of the carrier is drooping down, the carrier channel won’t be lining up either.  If carrier wear is the problem, shimming is the solution.

If the round goes into the carrier channel and the carrier brings it up when you rack the action, try putting two rounds in the magazine.  If the carrier won’t rise this time, it means the second cartridge is protruding into the carrier and blocking its rise.  The problem is likely a worn cartridge stop and you can get a replacement from Winchester Bob in Linneus, Maine (https://winchesterbob.com).  Be sure to use a fresh cartridge of the correct overall length when you do this test.  A blunted bullet and a shortened cartridge will give you a false positive.  Don’t let a gunsmith spot-weld the stop to lengthen it for you.  The heat will take the temper out of the spring.

Test No. 3: If the issue occurs when the carrier is at the upper level and the bolt refuses to move fully forward, this could be the cartridge stop also.  The cartridge stop is a tiny, spring-loaded plug that screws into the side of the brass carrier.  With the carrier in the lower position, it pokes through the wall of the carrier channel and stops the loaded cartridge from moving any farther back.  Centrefire .73s don’t have this feature.  When the block is raised to the upper level and the bolt moves forward, it pushes the little spring-loaded stop aside.  As the bolt face passes the stop, the stop moves back into its original position and the bolt continues on to chamber the round.  If the bolt is binding on the stop on its way past, the cartridge stop is likely the problem.  It may be loose or it may be broken.  It it’s loose, remove the carrier block and tighten the little screw that holds it in place.  If it’s broken, get a replacement from Winchester Bob.

You can get some understanding of the cartridge stop and its role by watching it in action.  Put on your glasses, use a good penlight and open the action with the carrier in the up position.  Look for the little stop on the outside of the carrier, right-hand side, partway back.  Now shine your light into the inner channel.  You should see the stop head poking out into the channel.  The stop head is the piece that stops the cartridge from moving farther back in the block.  Now, watch what happens as you close the bolt.  The front of the bolt will contact the inner stop head and push it aside as it moves past.  You’ll see the stop pop out on the outer side of the carrier channel, then pop back after the bolt face has passed it.  Do not try to back the bolt up before it has closed completely and the carrier has dropped back to its lower level.  Forcing it back will cause the bolt to bind on the stop.  Excess force will break something.

OK, back to the feeding issue.  If the issue occurs after the bolt has pushed the cartridge stop aside and moved forward past it, you’re at the stage I’m at.  I believe my problem is the extractor.  The extractor is the forward-most part of the bolt and this is what does the pushing.  In my case, the problem occurs only when the bolt is used to push the cartridge into the chamber.  It never occurs when the gun is pointed down and gravity lets the cartridge slip forward, or if the cartridge is pushed forward with a match stick.  I think my angled extractor nose is tipping the nose of the cartridge down and causing the bullet to hang up on the lower chamber mouth.  I have a freshly re-lined barrel with sharp edges on the chamber mouth.  Maybe that’s part of it.

I’ve ordered a replacement extractor from Homestead Parts in Tucson, Arizona (https://homesteadparts.com/shop/) but the jury is still out.  I’m going to do a final test by removing the cartridge stop entirely and see it the bolt will chamber the round properly without it.

If stripping a ’73 is new to you, maybe I can give you a hand.  We could ask our new WACA executive-secretary Heather Martin to exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses for us.  That would let us do the disassembly using FaceTime – you on your gun and me on mine.

Taking a ’73 apart for the first time isn’t all that hard.  It’s getting it back together.

Pete

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January 31, 2023 - 9:17 pm
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Hi Pete, thanks for the reply so fast. I was wondering what the measurements for the inner cartridge channel to see if the sides are worn. also I was looking for factory specs on the rimfire bolt, especially the lower cartridge lip protrusion as well as the measurements of the protruding firing “pin” .

I read somewhere that the lower cartridge lip is supposed to do the pushing which makes the bullet nose tilt up.

I am not quite ready to take mine apart yet. but I will let you know when I do.Laugh

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February 1, 2023 - 2:26 am
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Ed, I have your measurements.

On my gun, the cut-out channel at the bottom of the brass carrier block measures 0.155″ wide.  The bottom of the bolt that travels through this channel is 0.135″ wide.

The stud at the bottom of the bolt face that engages the recess in the barrel protrudes 0.102″ beyond the bolt face.

The firing pin is very low profile.  It protrudes just 0.008″ beyond the bolt face.  That seems very little but I’ve never had a misfire.

I hope this helps.

Pete

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February 1, 2023 - 2:41 am
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On mine the bottom lug protrudes .070″ and the firing pin protrudes .020″ and is a .040″ by .045″ rectangle. The width of the bottom of the bolt is .132″. The Winchester 1873 handbook has dimension drawings of many parts of the 73 including the 22 bolt but not all the dimensions.

Bob

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February 1, 2023 - 3:01 am
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Bob, I pulled my gun apart again and studied things even closer-up.  I had the carrier in one hand and the bolt in the other.  I put a cartridge in the carrier and pushed it forward with the bolt.  

Like on your gun, my bullets ride down the channel slightly nose down for exactly the reasons you described.  The bullet is smaller in diameter than the case rim.  And like on your gun, the ejector makes contact at the top of the rim just as the bolt lug makes contact with the bottom.  They push the bullet forward together.

With the gun back together, I watched things in real time.  The slightly nose-down bullet does not get pushed straight into the chamber and the bullet’s ogive does not guide the cartridge up into the chamber.  Instead, the soft lead of the bullet digs into the sharp lip of the chamber mouth and hangs up.  My barrel has been re-lined and the chamber is freshly reamed.  The edges are quite sharp.

There are still some unanswered questions.  Why did this problem develop now, long after the restoration work was done?  The chamber lip isn’t any sharper than it was then.  I’m still using the same CCI ammo.

I’ve seen too many nice guns spoiled by amateurs so I’m not going to test my theory with a file.  I’m going to drag my gunsmith out of retirement and tell him what I’ve discovered.  I’m hoping he’ll know what to do.

Thanks for your help.  I’ll let you know the happy ending when it finally comes.

Pete

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February 1, 2023 - 6:08 pm
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I want to thank all of you for your input on the measurements of your rimfire bolts and the feeding problems we are all experiencing with our carriers.

I have here the measurements of one of my carriers that I made for comparisons. 

I am also posting the measurements from the Winchester handbook for the rimfire bolt that I pieced together from the pages for pertinent information. I know most of  you probably have this book as I do but this is for the people who don’t out there.

/Users/ed/Desktop/1873 C#3 MEASURMENT CORRECTED

copy.png/Users/ed/Desktop/1873 rimfire bolt measurements from stone book.png

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February 1, 2023 - 6:58 pm
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Your pictures don’t work. Since your a guest you have to host them on another web site and link to them.

Bob

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February 1, 2023 - 8:14 pm
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I should have mentioned: the bolt and extractor on my rifle are not factory originals.  They were fabricated by Steve Holborn of Industrial Tool and Machine using the old, rusted originals as templates.  I live in Canada.  Steve is in Warren, Ontario.

Steve did the barrel re-lining too, using a tube of his own manufacture.  It slugs out at 0.2214″ in the grooves and 0.2158″ between the lands.  That’s a tight bore, which I think is the secret to its success.  Steve did a nice job.  You can barely see the liner with the naked eye.

Steve put a 1:16 twist on the rifling, which is standard for a .22 long rifle (standard for the .22 short is 1:20).  Steve said not to worry.  He said it’s OK to spin a bullet a little too fast; just don’t spin them too slow.

Turns out he was right.  Here’s a typical 25-yard, 5-shot group.

Pete

2.-Liner-muzzle.jpgImage EnlargerTypical-25-yard-group-CCI-high-speed.jpgImage Enlarger

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February 17, 2023 - 2:55 pm
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Bob, Ed, get ready for the happy ending.

The problem was wear in the carrier block.  The carrier rocked hardly at all in its raceway but apparently it was enough to alter alignment of the block and the chamber.  The problem occurred only when the bolt was used to push the cartridge forward because pushing on the bolt also canted the carrier downward ever so slightly, causing the mouth of the cartridge to snub up on the bottom of the chamber.

The solution was shimming the carrier to take out the slack.  I went over to my gunsmiths’ yesterday and we spent three hours working on it.  Rob was reluctant to silver solder or braise the block.  Instead, he installed a spring and plunger in the bottom right corner which did the same thing.

It took hours to understand the problem and 15 minutes to fix it.  It now feeds perfectly again.

Here’s a ten-shot group at 50 yards.

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February 17, 2023 - 3:33 pm
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The bolt coming forward has to push the cartridge stop spring out of the way which does put forward force on the carrier which probably made it rock.

Bob

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February 17, 2023 - 3:40 pm
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thanks Pete. great info

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February 22, 2023 - 4:42 am
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22 carrier on ebay now.

22 carrier

Bob

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